Keeping to a schedule is critical to ensuring a successful event. Creating a Run of Show (ROS)—a timeline/schedule of events—prior to the event is a great way to plan out the timing and order of all the moving parts. To begin, meet with all stakeholders and find out what their requirements are. Ask them as many questions as possible to determine the best way to manage the time before, during and after the event.
Here are the main elements to consider, and questions to ask, when creating a ROS.
Find out when the venue is available for setup to begin. What are the load-in times? Does the loading dock or freight elevator need to be reserved? Is there parking available for staff and volunteers? Are special permits needed for any unconventional effects, such as fireworks or live flame? If the venue is a union house you will need to confirm length of work day, when breaks need to be scheduled, and if different departments’ breaks should be scheduled at separate times.
How much time is needed to build the stage, hang lights and set up sound equipment? How many of these activities can be done at the same time? Can lights be hung in the house while the stage is being set up? Can cabling for sound be done at this time as well?
Technology & Sound
Sound and technology checks can take time. These can be done before speakers arrive. It’s better to allow time for these checks to avoid any technical difficulties during the event.
Remember to schedule a mic check with all speakers prior to the start of the event. Show speakers where they enter the stage, where they will stand, and where they will exit. Will they pick their mics up backstage or will they be handed them onstage? Schedule time for speakers to rehearse their speeches if need be.
Make sure you allot time for your entertainment to rehearse onstage. This usually happens after all the technical elements have been set up. The stage also needs to be clean and safe for performers.
Once the menu is chosen, find out how long it takes for each course to be served. How much time do the caterers recommend for each course? If you need to speed up meal service, more wait staff can always be added, or if the client approves it, speaking can take place during one or more courses of the meal. However, know that if you choose the latter option, guests will be unable to interact freely at their tables during that time.
Guest registration is also an important component to consider. A smooth registration process starts the event off in the right way and ensures your guests feel welcomed in a friendly, professional manner. You can also make use of one of the many apps available for event management. One that I like is the CVENT event management software and hospitality solutions.
Make sure you have enough staff/volunteers available to handle the arrivals, although your guests will likely not all arrive at the same time. A cocktail hour is a great idea for those who arrive early to enjoy a beverage and a snack while socializing.
Transitioning into the venue hall from the cocktail hour can be tricky, so usually a bell or gong is sounded to indicate when the hour is over. For an 80’s themed event that I managed once, I chose to incorporate the theme into the transition. I coordinated all the doors of the ballroom to be opened at the same time by the wait staff. Rock music from that decade was blasted through the sound system and rock and roll lighting welcomed the guests into the ballroom. This gave the guests a fun and clear signal that it was time to begin and set the mood for an exciting evening ahead.
If you are including an auction component–silent or live—you need to schedule when that will happen during the event. Guests participating in a silent auction should be warned 15 minutes and 5 minutes before the auction closes. Live auctions, on the other hand, take time, so you need to allow 2-5 minutes per item.
Auction checkout can be a schedule buster. Guests who want to pay and collect their items tend to arrive at the checkout at the same time. To encourage a fast and smooth checkout process, ensure there are enough volunteers to run the checkout desk. Make sure auction vouchers are organized ahead of time by lot number, to make them easy to locate and give to winners. If you have the space and volunteers, have one desk to pay for auction items and another to pick them up.
Even with the most thorough ROS and tightest schedule in place, delays can happen, so be flexible to allow for changes. The more planning you do though, the better you will be able to handle any surprises that show up on event day.